Home Canning Tomatoes Raw Pack, Whole, or Halved Method…No Water Added.
With Sharon Peterson
Canning tomatoes comes with a lot of questions: For starters, do tomatoes need to be pressure canned? Can you process tomatoes in a water bath canner instead of a pressure canner?
When you are canning tomatoes, you have a choice as to how you want to process them. (See safety recommendations for more information.) Canning directions for both the water bath method and the pressure canning method are included at the end of the page.
A Couple of Tips Before You Start Home Canning Tomatoes…
Optional: Freeze Them First
I explain how to peel your tomatoes in this article, but another option is to freeze your tomatoes prior to canning them. When you thaw them out, the skins slip right off. Check out this page for more information.
Should I Use Lemon Juice While Canning Tomatoes?
What’s this about lemon juice? For more information why acidifying your tomatoes is important, please read Canning Tomatoes Safely.
Do you really need lemon juice? What’s the big deal anyway?
Prepare Ingredients & Canning Supplies
Gather Canning Supplies for Canning Tomatoes:
- pressure canner
- canning jars
- canning lids and rings
- jar lifter and canning funnel
- large pot or blancher
- large spoons
- sharp knife
- towels and dish cloths
- tomatoes – I’m using Roma tomatoes on this page, but other varieties work as well.
- canning salt
Start by preparing your jars and getting water in your canner heating. (See pressure canning for full directions.)
First Step: Peel the Tomatoes
Depending on the size of the tomato, blanch 4 to 6 at a time. In these pictures, I am working with Roma tomatoes. I like them for canning because they are meatier than other tomatoes. They are smaller, so I can fit more in the blancher at one time.
If you have a blancher or blanching basket, that makes it easier, but you can also just use a slotted spoon and a big pot of boiling water.
How Do You Can Fresh Tomatoes?
1 – Wash tomatoes and dip in boiling water for 30-60 seconds or until you see the skins split. Start counting as soon as your tomatoes hit the water. DON’T wait for the water to come back to a boil to start your count time.
2 – When you remove the tomatoes, drop them immediately into a sink or bowl of cold water to stop the cooking.
3 – Slip off skins and quarter tomatoes. The skins should just slide off in your hands. Occasionally I’ll use a knife on some stubborn spots.
4 – Add bottled lemon juice or citric acid to the jars: 1T per pint or 2T per quart. Add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart to the jars, if desired.
As you skin the tomatoes, slice them in halves or quarters, whatever you you prefer. (I will sometimes even leave my Roma tomatoes whole.) Place them directly into your jars.
Your jars should be warm when you are working with your tomatoes. I’ll usually just have them in a sink or pan of hot water. You can also run a dishwasher rinse cycle with the jars and then leave them in the steamy dishwasher until you are ready to fill each one.
Press down on the tomatoes in the jar until spaces between them fill with juice. This will crush them slightly. Leave 1/2-inch headspace.
Repeat steps until all tomatoes are skinned and chopped. You may need to let your water come back to heat in between batches in the blancher.
Remove air bubbles with a small utensil–I find an orange peeler works great for this step.
Be sure and wipe the rims of your jars clean before placing your lids on. If there are bits of food, it may interfere with the seal. Place lids on the jars and process according to Water Bath or Pressure Canning Instructions.
Remember how your jars were hot when you filled them? They will most likely cool when you add the tomatoes, thus you should have the water in your canner warm/hot, but not boiling hot. You don’t want a drastic change in temperature. Canning jars are pretty sturdy, so they will handle some temperature change…but I’d still not risk placing cool or even room temperature jars in boiling water.
So in short, have the canner water hot, but not boiling hot, when you fill it with the jars.
Now keep in mind these are raw packed in their own juice. You should not add water to your jars. If you add water, you change the acidity and there are different processing instructions in those circumstances.
Also, keep in mind that these tomatoes will float (like in the picture above). It is just a fact of this method of canning. Tomatoes will end up at the top of the jars after processing with more liquid at the bottom.
It is prettier to make a tomato sauce, but this style of whole tomatoes has its place in many of my recipes, so I always do a bunch like this. With this style, you can even pull out the tomatoes in the middle of winter to put on a salad. Definitely mushier than fresh, but they still hold together well enough.
Processing Directions for Canning Tomatoes: Time & Pressure Requirements
Processing for a Pressure Canner
Process both pints or quarts – process for 25 minutes. (Be sure to adjust processing according to your altitude. For more information, see this altitude adjustments page.)
Processing for a Water Bath Canner.
Process both pints or quarts 85 minutes. Be sure to add lemon juice to each jar. (Be sure to adjust processing according to your altitude. For more information, see this altitude adjustments page.)
Source: Canning Tomatoes NCHFP.
Canning Tomatoes – A Quick Clean Up Tip
When I’m canning tomatoes, I like to have two pots set up in my double sink.
The one on the left for the cold water to cool the tomatoes as they come out of the blancher.
The one on the right to catch the skins as I slide them off.
The pots are lower than if you set them on a counter, making it easier on the arms, while the sink makes for easy clean up.
Questions & Comments from Sharon’s Inbox
Hi I just completed 7 pints of tomato’s using its own juice. I followed the Ball instructions.
My jars are cool and are sealed, however I just noticed small air bubbles inside jars. My jars look perfect otherwise.
Is this normal? Do I have to redo again? These bubbles are on top of liquid along the jar walls only and very small. Thank you in advance for any help given.
Yes, this is normal. I sometimes get this in my jars too.
I have a question about canning tomatoes…. I am suppose to heat up my jars and lids, then add tomatoes. My question is, after putting the tomatoes in boiling water so the skins split, then into ice cold water to stop them from cooking.
Ok the question is…. won’t the tomatoes be cold when I put them in the hot jars? And couldn’t that cause jar to brake? I am a newbie and this will be my first attempt at canning anything, I just don’t want to make a huge mistake.
Yes, you are right. The jars do cool down when you add the tomatoes. They won’t be cold though. They might be sort of lukewarm or even end up room temperature. That is why you want the water in your canner hot, but not boiling hot. It can be a bit hotter than your jars; canning jars are pretty sturdy, but don’t have a drastic difference in temperature. Great question.
It seems that on many sites that the processing times for whole or half tomatoes in a pressure canner is 25 minutes, but while looking on National Center for Home Food Preservation web site the process times in a Pressure canner is reduced.
You are correct. The site you have linked to is a reliable resource, and I often use it myself. The times I have quoted on my canning tomatoes page I drew from my Ball Blue book.
My directions on Simply Canning are for canning tomatoes raw with no added liquid. They are just in their own juice. If you look at this page canning tomatoes with no liquid added on that same website, the times are the same.
The page you saw with the different processing times uses a different packing method than I do, thus the times are different.
The site you mentioned has listed different packing methods for canning tomatoes and options for using different weights at more or less times. I have listed only one.
It is surprising that different methods will require different time and pressures.
Thank you for pointing this out. I am always happy to be “checked up on”. I want to give as accurate information as possible. Also, there may be someone who prefers a different packing method than I do and will want to use the times offered there.
I always recommend calling your local extension for more help if there are any concerns.
Canning Spaghetti Sauce
by: R Blondin
Hi, I just found your site today and I am very excited – lots to learn! But I do have a question – You state more than once that if someone is canning vegetables that it must be done in a pressure cooker. Why?
My mother had a pressure cooker blow up on her so she stopped using it therefore I have never learned how to use a pressure cooker and I don’t own one.
I want to make spaghetti sauce so I am wondering if I can just add the lemon juice to each jar and then just use the water bath. If this is o.k. then how many minutes should I leave the tomatoes in the hot water?
Hi there, great question.
The reason you must use a pressure canner is that vegetables are a low-acid food and are a risk for botulism. Here are some pages on canning safety that you might be interested in.
Assuming your spaghetti sauce has some vegetables (onion, green peppers, carrots, or other), you will need to use a pressure canner to process it.
Hope that helps.
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Page last updated 7/13/2019.